THE SIMPSONS: Al Jean Previews the Upcoming LEGO Episode, the Return of Sideshow Bob, Guest Spots by Daniel Radcliffe, Zach Galifianakis, and More
March 4, 2014 by Marisa Roffman
THE SIMPSONS has been going strong for 25 seasons, and with all those episodes under their belt, the show is still managing to do brand new things: take the upcoming LEGO installment the show will air in May. Or, the upcoming FUTURAMA/SIMPSONS crossover.
Of course, after being on this many years, having long-running characters like Sideshow Bob pop back up again can be part of the fun.
To get a little more insight about what the show has in store for us, THE SIMPSONS executive producer Al Jean participated in a conference call with reporters to tease big name guest stars, the upcoming death, and more…
The upcoming LEGO episode: Fresh off THE SIMPSONS getting its own LEGO set, THE SIMPSONS will pay homage to the toys by having a LEGO-centric episode that will air towards the end of the season.
“It’s a terrific episode, written by Brian Kelley, who, a long while ago, said, ‘What would happen if Homer, in his imagination, went into a world of LEGO?'” Jean explained. “And there’s a reason that he does, and there’s a reason he prefers it. And we contacted LEGO company to see if they would authorize it, and it’s animation that looks like LEGO CGI for much of the show, and there’s some regular SIMPSONS animation. And it’s going to be the 550th episode airing in May. It’s been in the works a long time: about a year and a half on our end.”
Dealing with Marcia Wallace’s real-life death…and an upcoming character’s death: As many SIMPSONS fans know, a familiar face will die next season, but it won’t be Wallace’s Mrs. Krabappel.
“[The upcoming death] had nothing to do with Marcia,” Jean said. “There will be a character who dies in the season premiere next year. But in terms of Marcia, it was just a great loss for people that love Marcia. For the show, it’s kind of like steering an ocean liner: you have upcoming things you adjust. There isn’t that much material left that she actually recorded; we’ll air everything she did. Bart will get a new teacher: there won’t be another Mrs. Krabappel after Marcia’s material is gone.”
As for which character will be dying, Jean was hesitant to say anything else about their identity.
“It’s hard, because the clues are accurate, but we’re not TRUE DETECTIVE!” he laughed. “I can’t give too many more clues before blowing the whole thing.”
The return of Sideshow Bob: One of this Sunday’s new episodes features the return Bart’s long-time foe, Sideshow Bob, but Jean acknowledged the writers are very cautious about when — and how — they use him.
“I’m really, really careful about approving new Sideshow Bob episodes, because I think every one of them is so special, and I never want to feel like we’re burning the character out,” he said. “We do have one…airing this Sunday. It was because we had an idea I thought was really funny [from] our writer Jeff Westbrook. I don’t think it will be his last [appearance] — [Kelsey Grammer (Sideshow Bob)] loves doing it — but we won’t do it unless we have another really great use for him.”
Upcoming celebrity guests: THE SIMPSONS has always had its fair share of familiar voices appearing on the show, and in one of the new episodes airing on Sunday, HARRY POTTER star Daniel Radcliffe will lend his voice to one of Bart’s newest friends.
“What happened is the writer of the episode, Dan Greaney, wanted to do an episode where Bart befriended a Holden Caulfield-type boy,” Jean teased. “Where [the friend] was a little older, and seemed like a great kid, and the more he found out about the kid, there was something kind of tragic about him. Daniel had done the show one other time [in a TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode], and is a huge fan — he actually listens to DVD commentaries! I had seen him on Broadway, too, and he was fantastic doing an American accent, so I thought playing a 13-year-old boy, I couldn’t think of anyone better than him. So we had someone who was ready and happy to do it.”
And there are still a few more familiar names popping up in the foreseeable future.
“Zach Galifianakis is coming on in a few weeks,” Jean said. “He’s playing a kid that wants to become a competitive eater and Lisa is trying to save him. He came to the read and he was great; a really, really nice guy.”
“[And] we have an episode in the fall, which is THE SIMPSONS-FUTURAMA crossover, where we had everybody from the FUTURAMA cast [on the show], which was a real thrill,” he continued. “At that table read, you had the greatest assembly of voice over [actors]: from Billy West (Fry) to Maurice LaMarche (Morbo). [Also] we have John Oliver who plays a neighbor who is hosting a mystery game that the Simpsons go to [in an upcoming episode].”
What’s to come: Because of the extraordinary amount of time it takes to produce an episode, the show is already well into making installments viewers won’t see for months. But on the bright side, that means Jean could tease what was coming in the upcoming TREEHOUSE OF HORROR segment that won’t air until fall.
“[Next season]‘s Halloween [episode], we have a segment that is inspired by the movie, THE OTHERS, where it turns out the ghosts of the Tracey Ullman’s SIMPSONS are haunting the Simpsons’ house,” Jean teased. “That was a really great segment to do. And we have a few characters from the very distant past.”
And, if you’ve been enjoying the elaborate couch gags the show has been playing with the past few years, those will continue on: “I will say we are planning to do more couch gags,” Jean previewed.
How long will the show continue on? “We’re about to read season 26 this week, which would air all the way through December 2015,” Jean said. “As you probably know, the cast [has contracts that] expires with this season, so we would be in a period where we would renegotiate.”
“That being said, I’m optimistic,” he continued. “Everybody loves doing it. We still do very well for Fox. I think we have something like the fourth highest ad revenue of any show on the air, which is the main number that really counts. And more importantly, we still think that what we’re doing — our stories — we really believe in and we really care about. It could…possibly end after these ones are recorded, but my bet would be no, it will go on.”
THE SIMPSONS airs a special one hour block this Sunday starting at 7:30 PM on Fox.